TODAY   |  March 30, 2014

Study: Possible link between diet drinks, heart disease

Researchers says older women who drink diet drinks may be more likely to develop heart disease, but it’s important to note there may not be a direct cause and effect. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> in health news this morning, there's important information out for the millions of people who consume diet beverages. researchers say older women who drink two or more a day may be more likely to develop heart disease . kristen dahlgren has more for us.

>> good morning, lester. it's important to know it may not be the direct cause and effect . perhaps they're drinking diet soet sodas to balance out other unhealthy habits. either way the researches say the results are worth noting.

>> reporter: on any given day, one in five americans will down a diet drink. a new study says the women who drink the most may be more likely to develop heart disease , even die from it.

>> consumption of two or more diet drinks per day was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events.

>> reporter: the women 's health initiative study looked at 60,000 post menopausal women over a time frame of about nine years. women who consume two or more diet drinks per day, were 30% more likely to experience a cardiovascular event and 50% more likely to die from related heart disease than women who never or rarely drank diet drinks. researchers caution the risk is still low considering heart disease is very common. they point out the women who drank more diet drinks were also the most likely to have other risk factors .

>> the higher proportion of women with a history of diabetes, higher proportion of women with history of high blood pressure , they also on average consumed higher calories than women in the reference group .

>> reporter: for scientist whose have long said artificially sweetened drink don't actually help people lose weight, more research is needed. many agree this latest study on diet drinks is at least food for thought .

>> it raises a question more than it answers anything yet. hopefully we'll know the answer to that in the future.

>> the american beverage association responded saying that because of those other risk factors , quote, it is impossible to attribute their cardiovascular health issues to their diet beverage intake. bottom line, guys, pa lot more research needs to be done. scientists say it's too early to say stay away from diet